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The Deer Creek Trail Hike, Escalante Wilderness In Utah

The Deer Creek Trail Hike, Escalante Wilderness in Utah

Hiking the Escalante Wilderness in Utah is a treat – especially the Deer Creek Trail. On our recent visit to southwestern Utah we decided to do the Deer Creek hike after hearing that the unsigned trail was supposed to be easy to follow. The trailhead was only about seven miles from where we were staying in Boulder – just off the Burr Trail – an exceptionally scenic road that is well worth investigating at the end of the hike.

The Deer Creek trail is obvious for most of the route. And it’s easy to get your bearings if you veer off since trees line the creek – and they’re the only big ones for miles around.

Updated March 2020.

Welcome to Grand Staircase- Escalante sign
Welcome sign to Grand Staircase- Escalante
The Deer Creek trailhead is a short distance away 
The Deer Creek trailhead is a short distance away

The trailhead was obvious because of a campground – appropriately named the Deer Creek Campground. We started just across from it.

Heading off we had no real idea of what we were getting into and how long the trail might be. In theory we knew you could hike all the way to the Escalante River – but this is canyon country and we didn’t know if we’d need ropes to accomplish that.

And we hadn’t had our day of canyoneering yet so I was still circumspect about getting in over our heads.

Fantastic show of fall colours early on the trail
Fantastic show of fall colours early on the trail
Hiking through grasses
Hiking through grasses
Pretty sweet start to the Deer Creek Trail hike
Pretty sweet start to the Deer Creek Trail hike

The unmarked Deer Creek Trail is easy to follow

As it turned out the Deer Creek Trail really was easy to follow. In fact we were tempted to go and hike up some of the nearby hills on the slickrock that is so prevalent in the area. But we didn’t – more because of the heat – about 85°F in mid-October and we hadn’t brought enough water.

Looking down into the colourful canyon
Looking down into the colourful canyon
The canyon walls get really big
The canyon walls get really big in short order
Crossing a dry wash on the Deer Creek Trail in the Escalante Wilderness
Crossing a dry wash on the Deer Creek Trail in the Escalante Wilderness
Didn't expect to find this small side stream
Didn’t expect to find this small side stream

Beautiful canyon scenery

As we continued along the trail the canyon walls grew bigger and bigger. Not only that but our world started to narrow. We got to the point where we had no choice but to turn around or wade through the water.

So wade we did – in water so cold our feet hurt within seconds of being in it.

Wading the numbing waters of Deer Creek
Wading the numbing waters of Deer Creek

We continued for about 15 more minutes from where we had slipped on the Tevas. John was a little disappointed that I wasn’t feeling more adventurous and in hindsight perhaps we should have explored further.

I thought it was better to be safe than sorry. And the debris left from an obviously recent flash flood had my imagination working overtime.

Exploring Deer Creek
Exploring Deer Creek

We retraced our steps and found a lovely lunch spot in the shade with canyon views that were nothing short of spectacular.

Glorious lunch spot
Glorious lunch spot

And then we did some nearby exploring of the rock below and found a petrogylph.

All manner of exploring on the rocks if you're up for it
All manner of exploring on the rocks if you’re up for it
John looking for and finding petroglyphs
John looking for and finding petroglyphs
Fall is a great time to hike the Deer Creek Trail
Fall is a great time to hike the Deer Creek Trail
Sandy walking near the start and end of the Deer Creek Trail
Sandy walking near the start and end of the Deer Creek Trail
Looking for cool water at the end of the hike and found this
Looking for cool water at the end of the hike and found this

Time needed for the Deer Creek hike

All told the hike took us about four hours including a long lunch stop and several breaks in the shade just to admire the scenery. We saw a total of three people – all within the first half mile of the car.

The hike certainly gave you the sense of being out there and if we’d had decent maps and more canyoneering skills I think we could have explored further.

Another nearby hiking option

Another hike we had thought we’d do but decided against it because of the afternoon heat was The Gulch – just four miles further up the Burr Trail.

It takes you up Long Canyon and can be hiked in either direction. Instead we enjoyed a drive of the Burr Trail from the air conditioned comfort of our car. But we have a reason now to return.

Tips for hiking the Deer Creek Trail, Escalante Wilderness in Utah 

Carry lots of water.

Bring a wide brimmed hat.

Always carry the 10 hiking essentials.

Leave a note – with someone or at the very least in your car on where you plan to hike.

Keep an eye on the weather. Canyons are prone to flash floods.

For more information about traveling to Utah visit the Utah tourism website.

Further reading on hikes in Utah

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Deer Creek Trail - Grand Staircase Escalante Wilderness in Utah

 

 

 

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. Another beautiful post, Leigh. We head south tomorrow to Arizona and because we’ve decided to drive instead of fly we have plenty of room for our hiking boots. . .the question will be: did they ever see the light of day or did they rest comfortably in the car’s trunk for several weeks? You’ve inspired me to use them!

    1. @Jackie You’ll end up finding some marvelous little spot that has just the right length of hike. You’ll be able to explore a part of the world not accessible to those who don’t get out of the car – and voila – you’ll be hooked.

  2. You and I have very different ideas of what a “trail” is. In my books, once you’re wading down the middle of a river, you’ve left the trail. As usual though, you’ve found some beautiful back country. Hope your feet have thawed back out by now.

  3. With all the natural beauty in the world, it’s hard to think of any place with more spectacular scenery than Utah. What a great trail you found. The part of the trail through a “rock and a hard place” looks pretty exciting.

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